Having a firm understanding of the DUI process is helpful for a number of reasons. One of the primary reasons is that a better understanding of the process can alleviate some anxiety. If you aren't familiar with the process, it will likely appear more intimidating. The DUI defense team at our firm wanted to provide you with a basic overview of the DUI process to assist and inform those who have been arrested.
Most drunk driving charges begin with a law enforcement official signaling their lights and stopping a vehicle for a traffic violation. In other cases, drivers are arrested at sobriety checkpoints or after an accident. In order for this stop to be lawful, the law enforcement official must have had probable cause to pull you over. This might have been something like speeding or driving without your lights on, or it could have been something as simple as having something (an obstruction) hanging from your rearview mirror.
If the officer believes that you may be under the influence, they will likely ask you to submit to standardized field sobriety tests. If they still believe you are intoxicated, then you will be arrested and taken in for further testing (breath and blood tests).
You will then be taken in for chemical testing. This could be a breath, blood or urine test, depending on law enforcement discretion. Many times, law enforcement will choose to conduct a breath test because the results show up instantly, whereas they must send blood and urine samples into a lab for testing.
If the chemical test you take registers your blood alcohol content (BAC) at .08 percent or higher, you will be charged with drunk driving. Because of implied consent laws, a chemical test refusal constitutes an automatic license suspension. During this time period, you will also be notified by law enforcement that your license is being suspended for a period of 30 days. While awaiting a hearing, should you request one, you will be issued a temporary driving permit.
Important changes to Florida's administrative license suspension laws:
As of July 1, 2013, some qualifying first-time DUI offenders may not have to face any period of license suspension if they are required to drive to work or school. To learn more about this recent change and if you qualify, speak with a Tampa DUI lawyer at our firm.
After you have been arrested for drunk driving, you only have ten days within which you can request a DMV (DHSMV) hearing. This is not your criminal hearing that deals with your criminal charges, but rather is an administrative hearing that is held solely for the purpose of contesting your driver's license suspension. If you are successful at this hearing, you could get your license reinstated or even get a hardship license.
This is where the criminal process begins. The arraignment is the hearing at which the prosecutor states the suggested sentence and the judge reads the charges that are against you. After the charges are read, you will be asked how you plea, to which you will answer: guilty, not guilty or no contest.
The pre-trial motion happens after the preliminary hearing but before the case goes to trial. This is an important component to most DUI cases, since this is the phase in which your attorney can petition to keep some evidence out of the trial on the basis that it is somehow flawed or irrelevant. Plea bargains are offered in exchange for something. For example, the defendant pleads guilty to DUI in exchange for a lesser sentence. These should only be entered into under attorney advisement.
This is not a comprehensive and detailed list of the DUI process. This is merely meant to serve as an overview to inform and clear up any myths about the DUI administrative and criminal process. To secure an attorney for your case, contact a Tampa DUI lawyer from the firm today!